Rival Choir masterfully narrates journey to find hope

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Photo courtesy of Facedown Records.
By James Hartley5-stars

Rival Choir, formerly known as Mouth of the South, enters the metalcore/post-hardcore scene strong with their debut faith-focused album “I Believe, Help My Unbelief.” The post-hardcore quintet from Denton, Texas is made up of members of the final lineup of MOTS, which disbanded in late 2015.

With a sound and lyrics that tell a tale of renewed faith and rededication and challenge listeners to step out of their comfort zone, “I Believe” is one of the best post-hardcore albums of all time, earning a place beside classics such as The Devil Wears Prada’s “Plagues” and Underoath’s “Lost in the Sound of Separation.”

The first track on the album, “Poured Out,” acknowledges this change with Josiah Lyle’s clear, passionate screams for a need for change within him.

With lines like, “I am stuck on repeat, regurgitating everything that’s inside of me, screaming the same words for all these years,” Lyle makes it clear that the change from MOTS to Rival Choir is more than just a stylistic change or a statement about the lineup.

Every line of every song is an extremely personal, emotional part of the message RC brings with this record.

The beautiful, often savage chords courtesy of Christian Prince (guitar) and Colton Bartholet (bass) bring an intense feeling to the album, presenting a different tone in each track.

“I Believe” is a classic concept album, so listening to the songs in order is a must.

The album takes listeners on a journey through the writer’s spiritual struggles.

“Reveal, Renew” urges listeners to bring healing and speak truth fearlessly with a driving drum line and energizing guitar to give extra power to the lyrics.

“Reveal, Renew” and the track after it, “Quiet Life,” mark a turning point in the life of the writer. The desperate struggle depicted in the start of the track comes to a calming slow down. The writer takes the time to think about where he is and where he should be, searching for what needs to change in his life.

“Sojourn” is the climax of the album. The writer cries out for answers on where he is in life and where he needs to be, comparing himself to the criminal Barabbas and the doubting apostle Thomas.

The album ends solidly with tracks 11, “I Believe,” and 12, “Help My Unbelief.” “I Believe” opens with, “This is the last time I’ll ever lie to myself. I’ve seen a glimpse of the truth, let it bring me to my knees.”

“Help My Unbelief” ends with an image of baptism symbolizing a renewed commitment, saying, “Lead me into the waves so I can see you standing over them. I want to feel to oceans tremble. I want to fall in love again.”

The entire record is full of charged stories that motivate listeners to improve themselves and seek truth.

Those wary of the change from Mouth of the South to Rival Choir can be at ease. “I Believe, Help My Unbelief” is stylistically similar to MOTS’ last two albums, “Transparency” and “Struggle Well.”

Just as in the band’s last albums, Lyle’s screams are passionate, meaningful and understandable while Prince, Bartholet and Metzger bring powerful, moving music that accentuates and complements the message of the lyrics.

Listening to the album halfway won’t do. While the message at the start is one of desperation, that changes with the character of the writer. The most notable transitions are in tracks nine through 12. The tone transforms to a more hopeful sound across these tracks, assuring listeners that even the heaviest of burdens will be lightened eventually and the hardest of struggles don’t have to be faced alone.

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